December 12, 2011
Autodesk Introduces Cloud-based PLM
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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At Autodesk University in Las Vegas, Autodesk previewed a new solution designed to transform how manufacturers manage the entire lifecycle of a product--from its conception, through design and manufacture, partner and supplier management, procurement, quality, compliance, service and more. Autodesk is tapping into the cloud to deliver a new approach to product lifecycle management (PLM), which enables companies to capture and manage product information and processes to continuously improve the products they manufacture.

Autodesk’s new PLM offering, which is expected to be generally available early next year, is part of Autodesk 360 – a set of secure, easy to use and affordable solutions developed to streamline product and project business processes. Autodesk 360 for PLM is for companies of all sizes, from small companies eager to deploy PLM for the first time to large enterprises that have become disenchanted by PLM, due to the complexities and high costs associated with traditional PLM implementations.

“Our approach to PLM is a sharp contrast to the decades old technology in the market today,” said Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president, Manufacturing Industry Group at Autodesk. “Autodesk 360 for PLM will enable customers of all sizes to achieve the full promise of PLM with a scalable, configurable and intuitive solution. We believe it will help our customers achieve a measurable competitive advantage through better, more accessible collaboration and business information management.”

Building upon the company’s leadership with cloud-based solutions, Autodesk 360 for PLM is geared for manufacturers that need to manage business processes throughout the entire lifecycle of a product — from the earliest concept to retirement. Autodesk 360 for PLM will comprise:
  • Autodesk 360 Nexus — Autodesk 360 Nexus is a new, cloud-based solution that will anchor Autodesk 360 for PLM with affordable, easy-to-use and simple-to-deploy software as a service that helps make the benefits of PLM business applications available to users anytime, anywhere — with less cost and risk.
  • Autodesk Vault — Currently available, Autodesk Vault provides on-premise product data management software that enables engineering workgroups to organize, manage and track their entire designs, engineering bills-of-materials and change processes. Autodesk Vault will work seamlessly with the Autodesk 360 Nexus.
  • Autodesk Buzzsaw ― Enabled by Autodesk Cloud, Buzzsaw’s cloud-based supplier collaboration allows customers to securely exchange designs and documents with external partners and distributed teams, regardless of their location. Autodesk Buzzsaw Mobile ensures that users have the most up to date information, wherever it’s needed.

Global research firm IDC estimates the PLM software applications market will grow to $20.5 billion by 2015. The processes required to commercialize and maintain products are increasingly complex and dispersed. Frequent interactions result in an overload of design, process, and business information that decision-makers and distributed teams must sort, prioritize, and manage over the lifecycle of their products.

Unlike the expensive, complicated, engineering-centric, and difficult-to-deploy PLM systems available today, Autodesk 360 Nexus is more readily and easily configurable to meet customer-specific product lifecycle process needs across the enterprise. Employees in a range of roles from planning to product development to supplier management, quality and compliance, service and more will have greater ability to eliminate bottlenecks and access product and project-related information more quickly regardless of their location.

Until recently, PLM has been the near-exclusive domain of large businesses, mainly due to the high cost and expertise related to deploying and maintaining the systems. “No company should be excluded from the benefits of PLM technology,” commented Kross.

An IDC Manufacturing Insights report released in June 2011 revealed that manufacturers identified the top three business benefits of cloud systems as: reducing total hardware spend; improving IT staff productivity and end user service levels; and reducing total spend on software licensing and maintenance. Autodesk 360 Nexus will better enable customers to start small but scale fast to meet demand, and fit easily within their existing business environment.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

After years of vehemently denying it would enter the PLM fray, Autodesk has done just that – entered it, and in a big way – with Autodesk 360 for PLM. And cloud-based PLM at that. With all the potential revenue to be made in the PLM space, Autodesk wanted in, but on its terms. A little late to the PLM party, maybe, but Autodesk also entered the 3D modeling market with Inventor a bit late as well compared with the competition, but seems no worse for the initial delay today.

Historically, Autodesk has been strong on the PDM side, notably with Vault in the MCAD space, and has done OK with it. The next logical step would be to ramp it up a notch to the PLM level, but with an interesting twist. Virtually all PLM systems to date have been the exclusive domain of big companies with big budgets that have required complex implementations and perpetual upgrades and additional software and services – some warranted, some probably not. Autodesk, however, with its master plan for PLM claims it will be feasible and affordable for all sizes of companies – small to large enterprises. This makes total sense because that’s Autodesk’s comfort zone – small- and medium-sized businesses who now are especially averse to high cost and risk.

Autodesk 360 for PLM is a unique hybrid approach that combines Autodesk 360 Nexus as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business process application with Autodesk Vault PDM software. They will be able work independently, but I’m sure Autodesk will push for using them in tandem as cloud and on-premise applications, respectively, at least for the time being.

While we’re quite familiar with Autodesk Vault and what it can do as an on-premise PDM technology, the new technology that intrigues us most from an MCAD perspective is the cloud-based Autodesk 360 Nexus. Although few details have been disclosed, Autodesk 360 Nexus also has drawn the interest of several of our peers. A cloud-based PLM system is a novel approach, and should be less costly and risky than traditional PLM systems, although no pricing has been announced yet. Less up-front and ongoing costs also could result in quicker ROI, but that remains to be seen. I’m surmising that the cloud-based aspect of Autodesk 360 Nexus is what was the main thought behind Autodesk’s claim that “everything would change” in PLM on November 29, 2011 during the technology’s introduction at Autodesk University 2011.

Just the fact of the sheer number of Autodesk software installations worldwide will be a game changer for its entree into the PLM arena as potential customers. Also, the claim that its PLM offering will be configurable, scalable, and flexible won’t hurt either.

Although Autodesk 360 Nexus won’t be generally available until sometime late in Q1 2012 (so, contrary to Autodesk’s statement at AU, PLM won’t really change until then), it will be interesting to track how early implementations fare, as well as the early adoption rate. Autodesk is treading into some competitive waters with a lot of unknowns, but at least outwardly, seems to have thought through a sound strategy out of the gate and a few miles down the road. The company waited to enter the PLM market until it felt it was right, and the wait is almost over and may very well be worth it for customers, vendors, and Autodesk.


The Week’s Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

Tetra 4D Announces Release of 3D PDF Converter v. 3.3
Tetra 4D released 3D PDF Converter v. 3.3 — a 3D solution authorized by Adobe to run as an Acrobat plug-in. 3D PDF Converter, running inside Adobe Acrobat enables 3D interaction and collaboration features in the free Adobe Reader. The 3D ecosystem enabled by Tetra 4D increases productivity by allowing ubiquitous sharing and collaboration with anyone inside or outside of an enterprise. This release of 3D PDF Converter supports PTC’s Creo, Dassault System’s Catia v6, Parasolid v24, as well as the current draft specification of the STEP AP242.

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-- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.


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